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2019-08-11 20:58:02
Two sapundu sacrificial poles in the form of male head and a woman stand behind this Ngaju couple.

Sapundu is the sacrificial pole of the Dayak Ngaju people of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The sacrificial pole is usually carved into a human figure or an animal figure. The sapundu is an integral part of the Tiwah dead festival, where animals are tied to it to be sacrificed.


  • 1 Form
  • 2 Tiwah festival
  • 3 References
  • 4 Cited works


Sapundus are traditionally made of ironwood, although today a lighter more common wood are increasingly being used. It is usually about 1.5 - 3 meter height, and has a diameter of between 15-25 cm.[1] Sapundus are carved into different figures e.g. a man or a woman, or sometimes of animals. A sapundu represent a figure that would escort the soul of the dead into the paradise during the tiwah. The type of figures represented by the sapundu is usually a figure that is deemed appropriate to accompany the deceased during their final journey into the paradise. For example, if the deceased was a female, a sacrificial post representing a man is usually prepared for her tiwah, and vice versa. Contemporary sapundu can be very creative. For example, there is a sapundu depicting a young woman in blue jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt wearing a Sony Walkman.[2] Some sapundus contain English inscriptions, e.g. "Tiwah Party" or "God Save Our Soul".[2] Notches inscribed onto the post are intended to serve as reminders to the souls of the animals, rice, and other goods donated by survivors to ensure the deceased's comfort in the afterlife.[2]

The following are different kind of sapundu figures found in the Dayak villages along the Kahayan, Central Kalimantan:

  • Sapundu hatue ("male sapundu") is shaped like a man, usually a ritual specialist, carrying a traditional iron dagger (duhung).
  • Sapundu bawi ("female sapundu") is shaped like a woman, usually carrying materials used in preparing betel leaves for chewing.
  • Sapundu embak bakas resembles a man carrying a container of uncooked rice around his neck.
  • Sapundu sambali resembles various types of animals, e.g. a male tiger, a dog, or a crocodile.
  • Sapundu haramaung is shaped like a female tiger carrying a snake in her mouth.
  • Sapundu rahu nyampang depicts two persons, husband and wife.

Many sapundus are set in front of house courtyard, such as those found in the villages of Central Kalimantan. Some sapundus are kept in Belanga Museum, Palangkaraya, to simulate the tiwah festival; this sapundus are donated by the villagers and are purified accordingly following the traditional rite.

Tiwah festival

On the fifth day of the Tiwah festival, buffaloes, pigs or cows are tied to a sapundu to be sacrificed. One animal is tied onto one sapundu.[1] The timing of the killing of the animal is adjusted with the intended length of the Tiwah ceremony; if only one buffalo is to be killed, usually the killing is done one day before the exhumation of the deceased. Multiple animals may require several days or it can be done all at once in one single day. The animal is tied onto the tiwah using a 10-20 meter tree root. A male animal should be tied to a female-gendered sapundu, vice versa.[3] All villagers are allowed to kill the livestock by spearing on them. The blood of the sacrificed livestock will be used to purify various items for the Tiwah, e.g. the sandung bone ossuary. The meat will be give to those performing the killing of the livestock following a strict rule.[4]


  1. ^ a b Dyson & Asharini M. 1980, p. 51.
  2. ^ a b c Schiller 1997, p. 59.
  3. ^ Dyson & Asharini M. 1980, p. 56.
  4. ^ Banua Hujung Tanah 2011.

Cited works

  • Dyson, L.; Asharini M. (1980). Tiwah Upacara Kematian Pada Masyarakat Dayak Ngaju di Kalimantan Tengah [Tiwah Dead Ceremony of the Dayak Ngaju Society of Central Kelimantan] (in Indonesian). Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan.
  • Schiller, Anne (1997). Small Sacrifices: Religious Change and Cultural Identity among the Ngaju of Indonesia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195357325.
  • "Upacara Tiwah Adat Dayak" [Dayak Tiwah ceremony]. Banua Hujung Tanah. Wordpress. January 16, 2011. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.